Stan Webb's name is synonymous with fans of Blues - not necessarily all here Stateside though. With a history that stretches back a few decades, Webb has been around Blues from his early days as a Londoner, to his growing years in the Midlands, through his days leading Chicken Shack (the band where Christine Perfect - later McVie - got her first tastes of recognition as a Blues pianist), right up to this February 2001 release from the Indigo label. This is Stan's first studio work in eight years, but he has no problems firing things up from the outset. Ably backed by the guitar of Fred James, the bass of Dave Clarke, the drumming of Sam Kelly, and the keyboard work of Billy Earhart, the band blazes through a fine collection of Blues and Blues-based tunes (The Third Coast Horns and Mary-Ann Brandon's backing vocals add some fine touches to the blend also). James, a US born-and-bred player, reaches into his bag of tricks as co-writer and producer of the disc as well.
Kicking off with the Fred James-written "Koko Road," Webb takes on a funky Sun-Studio inspired groove and lays down some blistering guitar, proving he's lost nothing in the fretwork wizardry department. Stan's voice, although much better and more developed than it was years ago, is still his only drawback. It's a voice that works fairly well, but the limited range holds "Strange Situations" and a few others back from being absolute stunners. "Guiding Light" is gospel-flavored, and the Lennon-McCartney chestnut "She Loves You" barely resembles the original with the horns and the Southern Soul approach; this one's almost worth the price of the disc for its flavor. "One And One Is Two" chugs along with more of Webb's fiery Les Paul string work that builds to a fever pitch making way for the ballad, "Pass The Time Away," another strong cut that would have been much better with a stronger vocalist.
Things pick back up on "The Power Of Love" which resembles some of Freddy King's biting work on the Shelter label, but the slow and brooding "The House That Love Lives In" perhaps best shows Stan Webb's ability as a straight-out Blues player. His restraint and phrasing on the guitar are a pleasure to hear. In less capable hands, tunes like this tend to be over the top, but Webb's technique and touch show a master working his craft (this one is definitely worth the price of admission). The shuffling "Took Me For A Ride" churns through a stop-time groove with The Third Coast Horns pushing things ahead. The Webb-penned "Paper Sellers Dream" moves aside for the Chicago-flavored "I Know," another strong shuffle with more excellent fretwork as Stan glides through a tasty solo. "Misty Rivers" is a surreal seven-minute instrumental trip through the Delta with some top-notch guitar and the perfect keyboard work of Billy Earhart. The disc closes out with "The Last Time" as Stan Webb and Fred James sit side-by-side on electric and acoustic guitars respectively, and oozes Mississippi-influenced Chicago Blues. The longest cut on the CD and maybe the sleeper as well, depending on the listeners' tastes.
With a pedigree a mile long, Stan Webb proves once again, that his heart is and always has been that of a Blues player. Full of powerful guitar work, excellent horns, backing vocals, and the fine production of Fred James, this is one to be enjoyed over and over. The writing collaboration of Webb and James works extremely well throughout the project and here's hoping we hear more in the near future. Additional info is available at www.trojan-records.com and www.stanwebb.cjb.net
This review is copyright © 2001 by Craig Ruskey, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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